In a surprise to no one, Ezekiel Elliott was the first running back taken off the board in the 2016 NFL Draft, with the Dallas Cowboys selecting the Ohio State junior with the fourth overall selection in Thursday night's first round.
The 6'0, 225-pound Elliott became a star during the Buckeyes' march to the 2014 national championship, racking up 696 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while averaging over nine yards per tote in Ohio State's victories over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and Oregon in the inaugural College Football Playoff title game. In 2015, Elliott gained 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground as the linchpin of Urban Meyer's offensive attack, and he finished his career second on the Buckeyes' career rushing list, just one notch below two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.
In the pre-draft process, Elliott quickly emerged as the top available ball carrier, and the St. Louis native solidified that sentiment with strong performances at the NFL Combine (which featured Elliott running a 4.47 40-yard dash) and at Ohio State's pro day (where Elliott flashed his pass catching prowess).
And if Elliott's well-regarded running talents weren't enough, Mr. Crop Top also drew high marks during his career and in the draft evaluation process for his voracious instincts as a blocker. (Just ask Virginia Tech's Deon Clarke or Notre Dame's Sheldon Day.) Elliott's impact in the NFL should be felt immediately, and his profile as a three-down back could keep him on the field in clear passing downs as a rookie. As with any running back who was the bell cow for their college program, durability is a slight concern with Elliott, who logged 653 total touches as a rusher, receiver, and returner during his career in Columbus.